Sunday, September 9, 2018

Ordinary English Bitter 1.0

The finished bitter, bottled and labeled
Another style I've never brewed, but always wanted to, is the standard English Bitter. This is a low-alcohol, slightly bitter, session beer enjoyed in many British pubs.

I started with a bit of research on the style. I found two good articles, one in Craft Beer and Brewing Magazine, and one from BYO Magazine.  From these articles, I got some recommendations for formulating my own recipe:
  • For the grist:
    • Maris Otter should be the base malt
    • Victory Malt
    • Crystal Malt (up to 10% of the grist, 40L to 150L, use less if it's darker)
    • Crystal 80-90L is common
    • Special Roast Malt
    • Biscuit Malt
    • Specialty malts are what differentiate one brewer's bitter from another
    • Simple sugars are not recommended, as they will thin out and dry the beer
  • For hops:
    • East Kent Goldings
    • Fuggles
    • Challenger
    • Willamette
    • Northdown
    • BU/GU ratio from 0.7 to 0.9
    • 30 IBUs is about right
    • The bulk of the hopping should occur at the 60-minute mark
    • Adding hops at 20 minutes and flame-out will "add interest" to the beer
  • Yeast:
    • WLP002 English Ale Yeast
    • Wyeast 1968 London ESB Yeast - generates more fruit esters
    • Wyeast 1318 London Ale III - highly flocculant
    • Safale S-04
    • Start in the middle of the yeast's range, then increase slowly toward the upper end, to create the expected level of esters
    • Ferment starting at 65F and free rise to 68F over 3 days and hold there
  • Other:
    • If your water is soft, add gypsum or a little Burton Water Salts, but be careful not to add much because it can make the water too hard - no more than 1 tsp. in 5 gallons
    • 1/4 tsp. Gypsum in 5 gallons is a good amount to provide the right mineral character
    • Serve at 55F
    • Low carbonation (1-1.5 volumes CO2)
    • A little diacetyl is OK in the style
Mashing should be a bit higher than some styles, around 154F.

I decided to go with Maris Otter, Victory Malt, and British Crystal 60-70L as my grist. I chose these in part because they're appropriate to the style, and in part because I happened to have all of them on-hand and wanted to use them up. I'll follow the recommendation to mash at 154F to have plenty of long-chain sugars in the beer to add body and sweetness to go with the hops bitterness.

I chose Fuggles as my bittering, flavor, and aroma hop primarily because I'm not a huge fan of East Kent Goldings but still wanted a good British hop flavor. Fuggles is similar to East Kent Goldings, but is said to have a stronger aroma and less softness. I'm hoping it will make for a good finished bitter. I also happened to have Fuggles on hand that I hadn't used yet. I'm getting about 20 IBUs from the 60-minute addition and the rest from the 20-minute and 5-minute additions.

For yeast, I wanted to get some of the fruity esters associated with the style. My experience with the Lallemand ESB yeast is that if fermented near the top of its range, it can produce subtle fruity esters. I'll use that yeast (since I happen to have it on-hand).

To punch up the hop flavor a little, I'll add some gypsum to the mash water. I've also been using Brewtan B in my beers lately, so I'll use it in the mash and boil here as well, though I've seen the Brulosophy article suggesting it has little effect on flavor. I'll use Clarity Ferm because I have a friend who is sensitive to gluten and likes to have beer she can drink that's lower in gluten. 

To help the beer drop clear, I'm adding a beta glucan step in the mash to reduce that source of haze. I'm also including Super Irish Moss during the boil, and extending the boil to 90 minutes to (hopefully) help compensate for the lower temperature boil in the Zymatic. The Clarity Ferm may help reduce the haze a little, too. Right before bottling, I'll treat the beer with gelatin finings and cold-crash it for a few days. Hopefully this combination will yield a nice, bright beer.


Ingredients

3.25 pounds Maris Otter Pale Malt
0.25 pounds Victory Malt
0.25 pounds British Crystal 60-70L Malt
1/8 tsp. Gypsum in mash water
1/4 tsp. Brewtan B in mash
1/4 tsp. Brewtan B in boil (20 min.)
1/4 tsp. Yeast Nutrient (10 min.)
1/4 tsp. Super Irish Moss
0.60 ounces Fuggles hops pellets @ 4.5% AA (60 min.)
0.45 ounces Fuggles hops pellets @ 4.5% AA (20 min.)
0.50 ounces Fuggles hops pellets @ 5.0% AA (5 min.)
1 package Lallemand London ESB yeast
3 gallons, 16 ounces starting water in keg
1/2 vial White Labs Clarity Ferm

According to the PicoBrew Recipe Crafter, the beer should have the following qualities:
  • BJCP Style: 11.A Ordinary Bitter
  • Original Gravity: 1.040 SG (actual was 1.038 SG)
  • Final Gravity: 1.012 SG
  • IBUs: 30
  • SRM: 9
  • ABV: 3.6%
  • Batch Size: 2.5 gallons (actual was 2.5-2.7 gallons)
The 1.040 is a touch high on gravity for the style, and the 1.012 SG final gravity is also a hair higher than it should be. However, I expected that either the gravity would come up light or I would dilute the wort a little to get it down to about 1.038 SG, considered the upper end of the style. (As it turned out later, I wound up with a bit more wort at the desired 1.038 SG gravity, so all was well.)

Mash Schedule 

PicoBrew Zymatic High-Efficiency Mash Schedule, modified to:
  • Heat to Dough In temp of 102F
  • Dough In at 102F for 20 minutes
  • Raise temp to 120F and hold for 10 minutes
  • Raise temp to 154F
  • Mash for 90 minutes at 154F
  • Heat to mash-out temp of 175F
  • Mash out 10 minutes at 175F
The 120F step was added to break up any beta glucans in the mash to help with haze reduction. (This is per a talk I listened to by Charlie Bamforth of UC Davis.) The normal High-Efficiency Mash step of 152F for 30 minutes was removed, and the step of 60 minutes at 154F was extended to 90 minutes. The 154F mash temp is a better match for the Ordinary Bitter style, based on reading I've done.

Boil Schedule

A 90 minute boil was used, to see if this has an impact on clarity with the Zymatic:
  • 90 minutes: No hop addition
  • 60 minutes: Fuggles 0.6 ounces
  • 20 minutes: Fuggles 0.45 ounces, plus 1/4 tsp. Brewtan B
  • 10 minutes: Yeast Nutrient and Super Irish Moss
  • 5 minutes: Fuggles 0.5 ounces
Following the 90-minute boil, the Zymatic will pump the wort into the keg for chilling. As is my current practice, the wort will be pumped into a sanitized stainless steel kettle and chilled using a sanitized immersion chiller to a temperature below 80F before being poured into the fermenter.

Fermentation Plan

The Lallemand London ESB yeast strain reportedly works best between 65F and 72F. Toward the upper end of that range, it should produce the fruity esters common in many British Ordinary Bitters. For that reason, my plan is to ferment it just below the upper end of that range, at 70F. This has an added advantage of being very near my basement's current ambient temperature, so it should not require too much work from my temperature control system.

Post-Brew Notes and Observations

There was a considerable amount of foaming early in the mash, starting during the Dough In step and continuing through the 120F rest. This did not result in the spillage of any wort outside the machine. The use of anti-foam agents didn't help a lot in this case. I checked the lines for air leaks and made sure there was water in the keg when the foaming occurred. In a couple of cases, there wasn't, so I added more and the foaming stopped briefly - but eventually reoccurred.

09/09/2018: The original gravity, according to my Tilt Hydrometer, initially read 1.040. After I got it setup with the BrewJacket temperature controller, it began registering 1.038 SG - which is the precise top end of the Ordinary Bitter gravity range in the BJCP criteria. I also found that I had more than 2.5 gallons of wort but less than 2.75 gallons (I have the fermenter marked in quart increments). The temperature of the wort at the time the yeast was pitched was 78F. The BrewJacket is configured to drop the temperature down to 69F for fermentation. I'm expecting it to get that low before the yeast begins doing much fermentation. The beer had a good color to it, about what I wanted to see.

09/10/2018: Gravity has dropped to 1.016 SG. The BrewJacket Immersion Pro has been holding the temperature steady at 69F. I'm hopeful that this temperature is low enough that the yeast doesn't produce an abundance of esters, but high enough that it produces some - consistent with the style.

09/11/2018: Gravity has been holding at 1.014 SG since approximately 4am today. I raised the temperature to 72F to see if this would encourage the yeast to take the beer the rest of the way to the expected final gravity of 1.012 SG.

09/12/2018: Gravity is continuing to hold at 1.014 SG despite the temperature increase. It's spent almost two days at 1.014 as of this writing. After three days at 1.014, I'll treat it with gelatin and move it to the mini-fridge to brighten up.

09/15/2018: It appears the the final gravity is holding steady at 1.014 SG, and has done so for over three days now. I treated the beer with a teaspoon of gelatin finings and moved it into my mini-fridge to cold crash and clarify over the next few days before bottling.

09/22/2018: The beer has now had seven days in the mini-fridge with gelatin finings and should be just about as clear as it can get at this point. I will bottle it with three small carbonation drops per 12-ounce bottle (low carbonation) today and move it into the "hot box" for carbonation.

09/29/2018: I chilled and opened a bottle of the beer (seen in the photo at the top of this post). It has a nice color. There is very little carbonation and a touch of diacetyl to it, which implies to me that bottle conditioning is still underway. The ESB yeast expressed its fruity flavors and aromas well. The balance tilts slightly (but only very slightly) toward the hops. Malt and yeast flavors come through well. I'll re-taste in a few days when conditioning has finished.

10/14/2018: The beer has had some time to condition and mellow out now, so I thought it would be good to compare it to the official BJCP criteria for the style and self-score it:

  • Aroma (10/12): Mild malty aroma with a touch of caramel to it. Moderate fruitiness from the yeast, from the hops and/or yeast. No diacetyl in the aroma.
  • Appearance (3/3):  Coppery amber color. Very clear at serving temperature. Thin off-white head that dissipates in about a minute. 
  • Flavor (14/20): Moderate bitterness, maybe slightly astringent. Bitterness dominates at the start, then gives way to biscuity malt and a touch of fruit. A touch of caramel in the middle. Finish is relatively dry and bitter. There might be a hint of diacetyl, but it's barely noticeable. I'd like the fruit to come through more and maybe a hint of toffee, too.
  • Mouthfeel (5/5): Medium-bodied, with low to medium carbonation. 
  • Overall Impression (7/10):  I haven't had a true English bitter that I can recall, so it's hard for me to judge the style beyond the BJCP notes. In that sense, this beer hits the vast majority of them. It's primarily bitter but not intensely so. There is a malt, caramel, and fruit presence in the aroma and flavor, but this takes a back seat to the hops bitterness. Maybe adding a second hop to give some complexity to the bitterness would improve it, and perhaps shifting to a little more medium crystal malt might punch up the fruit element a little. Overall, though, it is an easy-drinking beer.
  • Total Score (39/50)

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